“God is in the details.”
— Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
TO LOOK AT THE PURIST BUILDINGS by the man known as Mies is not to be burdened by a heaving and wheezing narrative, but rather to scan a spare aesthetic — and see the precision of a poem.
All those clean and elegant lines. All that open space that invites the eye. All that thoughtful plate glass and expressed steel. Mies — whose name belongs beside those two other modern masters, Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier — helped build a new and revolutionary architectural grammar.
Today, Google honors Ludwig Mies van der Rohe — that German giant of post-World War I architecture — with a poetic Doodle of his crowning achievement: S.R. Crown Hall at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he was head of the architecture school. The homepage logo, by Google artist Willie Real, celebrates the anniversary of Mies’s birth, 126 years ago.
Mies moved to Berlin early in life, and assumed directorship of the Bauhaus in the early ‘30s, but it was his emigration to the United States later that decade — amid Hitler’s rise — that resulted in so many American cities being graced with his architectural beauty.
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All that visual clarity. All that studied simplicity. Mies’s self-described ”skin and bones” architecture of fluid minimalism would spread from Barcelona to his Illinois campus, and then back to Berlin. He would go on to design such structures as the Highfield House and One Charles Center in Baltimore, Chicago’s “twin towers,” Manhattan’s Seagram Building and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington.
Formal recognition of Mies included the AIA Gold Medal (the American Association of Architects’ highest honor) in 1960, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (awarded by President Lyndon Johnson) about three years later.
“Less is more,” said Mies, who died in Chicago in 1969.
In today’s elegant Doodle, “less” is much more than enough.
Happy 126th, Mr. Mies.
NOTE: Mies’s style came under much criticism in later decades — largely from postmodernists (“Less is a bore,” architect Robert Venturi famously said before later leavening his criticism) — but has more recently enjoyed a rehabilitation of reputation. Feel free to share your cheers or jeers of his aesthetic and influence in the Comments below.
Comic Riffs’ TOP TWELVE ‘GOOGLE DOODLES’ THAT HONOR MUSICAL & VISUAL ARTISTS (*before today):
1. LES PAUL: THE PLAYABLE GUITAR
2. MARTHA GRAHAM: THE DANCING DOODLE
3. JOHN LENNON: IMAGINE THIS DOODLE
4. FREDDIE MERCURY: THE MUSIC VIDEO
5. JIM HENSON: THE CLICKABLE MUPPETS
6. CHARLES ADDAMS: THE SPOOKY DOODLE
7. ART CLOKEY: THE “GUMBY DOODLE”
8. MARY BLAIR: THE DISNEY DOODLE
9. DIEGO RIVERA: THE LARGER-THAN-LIFE MURAL
10. ALEXANDER CALDER: THE MOBILE DOODLE
11. WILL EISNER: THE SPIRITED DOODLE
12. RICHARD SCARRY: THE BUSTLING NEIGHBORHOOD